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what to wear in washington dc

What to Wear in Washington, D.C.

SmarterTravel

D.C. locals expect you to look like a tourist: Embrace it. And remember that the city isn’t known as a fashion mecca. When it comes to what to wear in Washington, D.C., it’s hard to make any real style faux pas; it’s more important to be comfortable.

What to Wear in Washington, D.C.

If there’s one cardinal rule for D.C. wardrobe planning, it’s to be ready for extremes. Summertime temperatures and humidity can be brutal, but so can the air conditioning inside museums and other attractions. If you’re going to be going back and forth between the two several times each day, you’ll want to be ready. Here are some suggestions about what to pack for Washington, D.C.

Comfortable Walking Shoes

Hiking

D.C. is a great city for walking, but your feet may fall victim to its monumental-scale distances. Make sure you have shoes that are up to the challenge. Merrell’s Moab series has been around for years with options for men and women, and its utilitarian comfort just keeps getting better.

Casual Pants

best travel jeans prana women's kara jean pants
Amazon.com

Here’s the quick answer to “What to wear in Washington, D.C.?” Anything besides cargo shorts. As one D.C. native puts it: “The fashion aesthetic here is more preppy than fratty. People look like they spend their time on sailboats, not playing beer pong.” If you’re planning on spending any time in Georgetown, this advice holds quadruply true. Consider Prana jeans or casual linen pants as an alternative.

Light Sweater

Amazon.com

When it comes to Washington, D.C. clothing, a light sweater can be a godsend—especially if you’re trekking the Mall in July and then spending a couple of hours in an air-conditioned Smithsonian museum. If you have a dinner reservation that doesn’t allow time to swing back to your hotel first, the same sweater can transform an outfit you’ve been wearing all day. Here are some comfy options for men and women.

Sun Hat

Wide-brimmed, crushable sun hats can be surprisingly hard to come by, but they make your life a whole lot easier under blazing summer skies. This men’s hat from Wallaroo does the trick with UPF protection, while women might like Comhats’ crushable option.

Rain Jacket

Patagonia nano-air hoody
Patagonia

If you’re planning outdoor activities and the forecast calls for rain, consider investing in a solid rain jacket. Patagonia’s Nano-Air Jacket for men and women doesn’t come cheap, but neither will it let you down when you need it most.

Obama T-Shirt

Amazon.com

When you’re trying to figure out what to wear in Washington, D.C., it doesn’t hurt to choose something that suggests that you miss the Obama administration. You will definitely ingratiate yourself with the heavily Democratic-leaning locals. This “44” T-shirt is a classic.

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—Original reporting by Matt Jenkins

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2018. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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